Over 80 students and members of the public gathered outside the Clarendon Building on Monday to campaign against the millions that Oxford invests in arms companies.
The protest, organised by Oxford Anti War Action, Oxford University Palestine Society, and Oxford Stop the War, was taking place ahead of a meeting of the University’s Socially Responsible Investment Committee on Thursday. The organisers hope that pressure from students and members of the public will discourage the Committee from allowing further investment in companies such as BAE, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Amy Gilligan, who took part in the protest stated, “The Socially Responsible Investment Committee has been finally set up after intense pressure from students, and I’m hopeful that this will finally lead to the University divesting from arms companies. However, even setting up the committee has taken two years, so I think it is important that students don’t let the University drag its heels on this issue, and that we show the University that we will not stop campaigning until they no longer invest in arms companies.”
Ashley Inglis, a campaigner speaking at the rally, called on the University to commit to more ethical investment. “If our University is that short of money, we’d rather we wrote out essays with chalk and sold off a few fine manuscripts, than it make a single bloody pound from investing in war crimes.”
The University has declined to comment at this time. The decisions made at its meeting will not be released until the minutes are published in Hilary.
In addition to the University’s investments, individual colleges invest over £100,000 in arms companies. Russell Inglis, a graduate at St Hugh’s, warned, “This is just the start of the campaign. If we are successful with the University, we can then go on to campaign against other college’s investments.” Ingris argued the way our funds were being used was “unacceptable”.
Cetta Mainwaring, one of the organisers, stated, “These companies are… linked to the death and destruction seen in wars from Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan. Besides being ethically dubious, these investments are not compatible with the University’s own Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Policy which was passed in 2008.
There is concern that the University needs its current investment programme to maintain sufficient funding. However Russell Ingris pointed out, “There are many other alternatives open to the university, including investing in ethical funds or getting funding from the super wealthy alumni. Investing in arms should not be an option.”
Ben West, OUSU Environment & Ethics Officer Elect, agrees that the University should look to other options for investment. “Given its well-publicised financial worries, you’d think that the University would be a little more forward-looking about where it invests its money. $120bn was spent globally on renewable technologies like wind and solar last year, up by 60%. And yet rather than ensuring that Oxford is well placed to take advantage of the new green economy, the University, as so often, seems to be stuck in the past.
“Oxford can and should do better. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because we don’t want to see the University trashing its long-term-future for the sake of a quick buck or two.”